« AnteriorContinuar »
of the sun, but vapours, subterranean air, and the like; these must duly be tabulated. Then we pass on to “negative instances," rays of the sun, in mid air, rays of the moon, cold vapours; all of which are arranged in a second table. In a third are placed the instantice, which have more or less of the “nature" under examination, noting the relative increase or decrease in the same subject; this is the Table of Degrees, or Comparative Table. And so we go on through twenty-seven tables or classes of instantice, until, by analysis and comparison, we can make from them an induction, and gather in the first harvest of our patient and persevering labours.
Such is a brief outline of Bacon's experimental philosophy,* which threw open the domains of Nature to the enterprise of man. It was no part of his work to accumulate results; his special province was to explain how they might be secured, and to stimulate the mind of man to undertake the task. “Be strong in hope," he said, “and do not fancy that our 'Instauratio’ is something infinite and beyond human reach, when, in truth, it is mindful alike of mortality and humanity. It does not expect to accomplish its work in the course of a single age, but leaves it to the process of the ages. Lastly, it seeks for science, not boastfully, within the little cells of the human intellect, but humbly, in the range of the wide, wide world.”
* For the deficiences of the Baconian method, see Swan's “ Principles of Science.”
N that remarkable portrait-gallery which is known
to us as the Earl of Clarendon's “History of the
Great Rebellion,"* the learned John Selden perhaps the greatest of our antiquarian lawyers—is thus presented to the critical judgment of posterity.
“He was a person whom no character can flatter, or transmit in any expressions equal to his merit and virtue. He was of so stupendous a learning in all kinds and in all languages (as may appear in hisexcellent and transcendent writings), that a man would have thought he had been entirely conversant amongst books, and had never spent an hour but in reading and writing; yet his humanity, courtesy, and affability were such, that he would have been thought to have been bred in the best courts; but that his good nature, charity, and delight in doing good, exceeded that breeding. His style in all his writings seems harsh, and sometimes obscure, which is not wholly to be imputed to the abstruse subjects of which he commonly treated, not of the paths trod by other men, but to a little undervaluing the beauty of style, and too much propensity to the language of antiquity ; but in his conversation he was the most clea discourser, and had the best faculty of making hard things easy, and presenting them to the understanding, that hath ever been known. Mr. Hyde was wont to say that he valued himself upon nothing more than upon having had Mr. Selden's acquaintance from the time he was very young, and held it with great delight as long as they were suffered to continue together in London; and he was much troubled always when he heard him blamed, censured, and reproached for staying in London, and in the Parliament, after they were in rebellion, and in the worst times, which his age obliged him to do; and how wicked soever the actions were which were every day done, he was confident he had not given his consent to them, but would have hindered them if he could with his own safety, to which he was always enough indulgent. If he had some infirmities with other men, they were weighed down with wonderful and prodigious abilities and excellencies in the other scale."
* No one can deny the vigour and incisiveness with which Clarerdon has sketched the characters ” of his contemporaries; and though no longer of much value as a record of events, for these it must always be valued and consulted.
This man of “wonderful and prodigious abilities and excellencies” was born at Salvington, near Tarring, in Sussex, on the 16th of December, 1584. On his mother's side he was well-born, for she came of the knightly family of Baker ; but his father appears to have been of low estate. His early education he obtained at the Free Grammar School of Chichester, and he made such admirable use of his opportunities and natural gifts that, at the age of fourteen, he was admitted of Hart Hall, in the University of Oxford. Four years later, he removed to London, and, according to a custom of the time, which required that a student at law should enter at one of the inner inns of court before joining the greater societies, became a member of Clifford's Inn. In May, 1604, he was admitted of the Inner Temple, and soon afterwards was called to the bar.
Of his favourite studies, and the various stages of his intellectual growth, biography, up to this date, records
but few particulars. It is clear, however, that he was an assiduous student, and that his inclination led him to investigate antiquarian subjects. He seldom or never appeared at the bar; “but sometimes gave chamber counsel, and was good at conveyancing,” thus securing the means and the leisure for the prosecution of his learned pursuits. Having made the acquaintance of Camden, Spelman, and Cotton, to whose painstaking labours the English antiquary is so greatly indebted, he joined them in their researches into the national antiquities; and the first fruits of his industry were garnered up in his “ Analecton Anglo-Britannicon Libri Duo,” a volume of collections relative to early English history, which he compiled before he was twenty-three years old (1607). It was not published, however, until 1615. Meanwbile, he applied himself to the general study of jurisprudence, and this with such success that, “in a few years," says Anthony à Wood, “his name was wonderfully advanced, not only at home, but in foreign countries, and he was usually styled the great dictator of learning of the English nation."
In 1610, appeared his “ England's Epinomis,” and “Jani Anglorum Facies Altera,” both of them bearing upon points of early English history. In the same year he published his erudite essay on "The Duello, or Single Combat," a minute investigation into the Norman custom of “ judicial combat," which is still an authority on the subject. His circle of friends now included Ben Jonson, and Browne, the poet of “Britannia's Pastorals," and Michael Drayton, to the first eighteen songs of whose
Poly-Olbion " he furnished historical and topographical notes.
So far, however, he had not done justice to his capacity or his learning; but when, in 1614, he gave to the world his elaborate treatise upon "Titles of Honour,” the full measure of his erudition was at once perceived. It contains an extraordinary amount of curious information respecting the degrees of nobility and gentry in England, and similar distinctions in other countries, all carefully systematised, and illustrated with judicious comments. Archbishop Usher thought it “Selden's best book;” it is, I think, always excepting the “ Table-Talk,” bis most readable.
With indefatigable industry and keen intellectual acumen Selden went on his laborious way, groping in the dusty by-paths of history and law; and collecting facts, precedents, and evidences of usage, with all the zeal of a constitutional reformer, who found in the Past his landmarks for the guidance of the Present. He looked on, by no means unconcerned, though not directly involved, at the great struggle which had already begun between authority and right, between the prerogatives of the crown and the privileges of the people, and patiently elucidated the principles upon which, as be conceived, it might justly and pacifically be settled. Meanwhile, quietly waiting the further development of a contention which was to expand far beyond any limits at that time conceived of by the boldest, he continued his antiquarian labours, and constantly gained in reputation and influ
We find bim, in 1616, editing Sir John Fortescue's famous treatise, “De laudibus Legum Angliæ " (written between 1461 and 1470), and Hengham's “ Summa," with elaborate annotations; and addressing to Sir Francis Bacon, on whom the great seal had just been conferred, a “ Brief Discourse” upon the office of Lord Chancellor of England.